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Coed Cymerau Isaf cattle grazing

Coed Cadws Coed Cymerau Isaf is a 32 hectare upland oak, Quercus petraea, wood in the treed vale of Ffestiniog, within the Snowdonia National Park. Some of the site forms part of the Meirionydd Oakwoods and Bat Sites Special Area of Conservation. It is made up of semi-natural ancient woodland, unimproved grassland and three areas of mire. The mesotrophic grassland areas support field woodrush, Luzula campestris, black knapweed, Centaurea nigra, ribwort plantain, Plantago lanceolata, and the moss Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus. There are also pockets of calcifugous grassland containing sweet vernal grass, Anthoxanthum odoratum, and heath bedstraw, Galium saxatile. Several orchid species are found throughout the site, including common spotted orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii. The lowland meadows are Wales Biodiversity Action Plan habitats. Of particular note in the areas of mire is the presence of raised or blanket mire, priority habitats with a Wales Biodiversity Action Plan, and bog pools. These are important for their true sphagnum communities, white-beaked sedge, Rhynchospora alba, bog asphodel, Narthecium ossifragum, and sundew, Drosera sp.

Sundew northeastwildlife.co.uk

In 1990 work was undertaken to restore and stockproof the old field boundary walls. On completion of the work, grazing was introduced to a six-hectare area of Coed Cymerau Isaf, but not to the woodland. The objective is to maintain the open ground areas using low-impact methods. The conservation grazing is increasing species diversity. It will also prevent the wet mire and bog habitats from scrubbing over or molinia from dominating. Maintaining the important open ground and woodland edge resources provide good foraging opportunities for the resident population of lesser horseshoe, Rhinolophus hipposideros, and other bat species. Hardy native breeds of cattle, such as Highlands and Belted Galloways, now graze the site. These are generally maintained at a relatively low stocking density, however their numbers can be increased for short periods if necessary and there is also the opportunity to use sheep. The cattle are highly effective at preventing natural regeneration occurring in the areas of mire. Their poaching of the ground as they move over the boggy areas increases structural complexity and maintains species interest. The cattle are on site from around April (weather dependent) until October.

Field boundary Rory Frances

Cymeraus on-site resident ecologist also acts as the grazing agent; identifying suitable graziers, drawing up year-on-year plans, managing the numbers and movement of livestock and timing the cutting of hay to ensure the meadow flowers have set seed. The grazing and hay cutting schemes are tailored to respond to climatic variables and plant responses. A monitoring list of the species expected in each field is being developed. This simple method is easily replicated and will build a body of data to demonstrate the aims of the management plan are being achieved.

The internal and external fences are maintained regularly to keep livestock from escaping. The site is also a popular dog walking spot, therefore the needs of the public must be considered. To reduce any possible conflict new gates have been installed and warning signs will be produced. The long-term aims are to maintain and extend the open areas and improve habitat quality. This will continue to benefit species that depend on open habitats and the woodland edge.

The Woodland Trust, Kempton Way, Grantham, Lincolnshire NG31 6LL.


The Woodland Trust is a charity registered in England and Wales no. 294344 and in Scotland no. SC038885. A non-profit making company limited by guarantee. Registered in England no. 1982873. The Woodland Trust logo is a registered trademark.